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Columbus Episcopal woman priest resigns over gay bishop

Columbus Episcopal woman priest resigns over gay bishop

Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Miss. - The Rev. Sandra DePriest has become the
first Mississippi Episcopal priest to step down to protest the
ordination of the church's first openly gay bishop.

DePriest told The Commercial Dispatch newspaper in Columbus that
she could no longer actively serve as a priest until the gay bishop
issue is resolved.

DePriest finished up with the Church of the Good Shepherd
in Columbus and St. Johns Episcopal Church in Aberdeen on Christmas

DePriest told the newspaper she was not resigning her vows
for the time being, but could no longer actively serve as a priest
until the gay bishop issue was resolved.

Earlier this year, Bishop V. Gene Robinson became the first
openly gay man elevated to that rank in any major Christian body.
Robinson was ordained after an August vote at the Episcopal Church USA
General Convention in Minneapolis.

Many Episcopalians who believe in a traditional
interpretation o f the Bible want Robinson removed as bishop and have
won the support of several American bishops.

DePriest said she is one of those opposed to Robinson's
ordination and her stance on the issue meant she could not continue
leading worship.

"I believe that my vows have been placed in conflict,"
DePriest said. "I took vows to uphold Scripture when I was ordained ...
and at the same time I took vows to uphold the doctrine and discipline
of the Episcopal Church of the United States. And I cannot teach those
doctrines and disciplines."

DePriest joined the priesthood after a 17-year career as a
lawyer. She joined the seminary in 1996 and was ordained in 1999.

After spending two years as the priest of Christ Episcopal
Church in Tuscaloosa, Ala., DePriest took her position with the two
churches in Columbus and Aberdeen.

DePriest said the appointment of Robinson to a senior
position within the church was a deal breaker for Episcopalians who
believe in a traditional interpretation of the Bible.

DePriest said these Episcopalians consider homosexuality a
sin that must be repented a belief completely at odds with Robinson's
openly gay lifestyle.

DePriest said for the moment, she is not willing to leave
the church completely while there is hope that the rift can be

DePriest said the Episcopal Church USA was willing to
provide alternative pastoral care for priests and congregations who
were opposed to Robinson's ordination. This arrangement, she said, is
supposed to keep disgruntled members of the faith under the
Episcopalian banner by allowing them to shift their churches under the
authority of another bishop.

DePriest said this is unacceptable to members of the faith
who a re thinking about splitting from the church because they no
longer support its leaders. DePriest said under present arrangements,
those Episcopalians would have to abandon their churches and sever
financial links with the church .

Bishop Duncan Gray of the Mississippi Diocese said the
Anglican faith that Episcopalians practice - founded in England over
400 years ago - was based upon diversity of belief and tolerance.

"We were founded in theological conflict," Gray said.

Gray said the church had the ability to broker a compromise
with in its DNA. He claimed a number of the 13 bishops who had been
identified as working against the church's leadership had since
clarified and even retracted earlier statements.

Gray said a great deal of work is going on behind the
scenes to broker a compromise.

"This is certainly something that will be ongoing, but I'm
very pleased with the efforts (of the church) to respect individual
conscience," Gray said.


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